Editor’s Note: This article was written in January 2011 but its message continues to be relevant today…..

I was saddened to hear about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, a US federal judge and others being shot in Tucson today. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone touched by this tragedy.

As of this writing, the motives for the gunman are unknown. Early reports tend to point to a confused individual who was upset at the government over perceived issues in our society. At the point you read this you may know more details. I hesitate to speculate on why someone came to Congressperson’s open town forum with a gun and opened fire on people.

Unfortunately, the representative and her staff have been the victim of threats in recent months over her support for the healthcare legislation. Tea party members have camped outside her office shouting angry rhetoric, there have been other threats made against her office and at one point the glass door to her headquarters was shattered by unknown individuals. I hope there is no connection between those events which were sad enough and today’s events which are simply tragic.

Over the past year I’ve written several times about my concerns on the rising tendency within our society to be unable to agree to disagree on things without resorting to verbal or physical abuse and violence. Our system of government was created by wise individuals who frequently did not agree on all the details of life, but agreed adamantly about the need to create a society that protected the freedom to disagree. They realized that creating a government that provided freedom of speech, press and religion was way more important than their individual disagreements upon life’s details or political issues.

Our founding fathers saw the humanity in each other and valued that humanity above our petty differences of belief. They realized that we were all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Their attention to our humanity and the rights that came with our humanness were given precedent over anything else. I believe that divine insight is one of the reasons for America’s success.

Unfortunately, we have seen a tendency in recent years for more and more individuals to place more attention on our differences of opinion than on our underlying commonality in our humanity. The result is that the more energy we give to our differences, the less we see our similarities. When taken too far, one loses the ability to see the other person’s humanness, the “other” becomes an object, something less than human in which we are justified in our verbal and physical attacks. When you are no longer human, I can rationalize my inhumane behavior.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to continue down this path of humanity’s inhumanities to itself. We can reverse the trend. How? By each of us focusing first and foremost on that which unites us – our humanness. We must see one another as a valuable and unique expression of humanity – every person we encounter no matter what they believe we must see as being endowed with that same special something that we are – that essence, that consciousness which makes us all human beings.

May the tragedies of today’s event’s serve as a wake-up call to what Abraham Lincoln called the Angels of our better nature. There is something within us that knows there is a higher path, a better way. May that something in each of us be shaken out of its doldrums and be inspired to seek change for our highest future. We must learn to agree to disagree on the details of life and all come together in agreeing on that which is most important – our humanity.

And may we also come together in this moment, each in our own way, and hold thoughts and prayers for every person impacted by today’s tragedy. No matter what your spiritual beliefs are, the opening of our hearts in this moment is what it means to be human.

Mark Gilbert

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!